The way to open up the cage – Part 4
The carriage swayed as it clattered down the road.
No one among its passengers muttered a word, and neither did the coachman, who looked busy doing his job.
The maid that always took care of Lise was silent while checking her dress and body, then, after finishing, she turned her face away.
The archbishop’s mouth was sealed shut, as she didn’t want to speak. Actually, she thought that talking would’ve been an unforgivable deed.
“You sure took your time, huh?”
She jumped hearing the voice of the man sitting nearby, and quivered.
In front of her, with a grin plastered on his face, sat Kiad Fortesea.
She started to elaborate an answer while tightening her clutch on the basket she held in her arms.
“…I am sorry. I fell asleep.”
“Yeah, I know. There’s no need to be that startled, you know? Lise Crest.”
He was probably in a good mood as he stifled a laugh in his throat.
“You are such a great actor despite your young age! They leaked quite the load of information! I couldn’t stop laughing!”
She bit her lower lip, but he didn’t mind her and kept talking.
“What a fantastic holy knight you are! You didn’t only create the magic tools for us, but also entwined two different kinds of magic within them!”
Since she became archbishop, Lise created a lot of new magic tools.
She optimized the law formulas to their limits, lessening the amount of magic power needed to activate them, and also improving significantly the barriers they provided for defense.
Fortesea, as a major company, started to sell them to nobles, and in only two years they became widely spread… although no one knew that their law formulas had a secret code within them.
“Listening to people’s conversations without being there is pretty useful, ain’t it? That way, spying on the other families’ magic studies is easy, and… this way, I can know how strong are the idiots who oppose me and when they scheme something right away.”
Kiad had heard every conversation that Takumi held with Lise.
Within magic tools’ law formulas was entwined a magic that mirrored messages to someone else, so Kiad could listen to any conversation freely.
“Still… Haha, I can’t believe that slave merchant doesn’t have magic power! I can’t help but laugh! How can he try to oppose me with such a puny body?!”
His smile crooked in wickedness and bloodlust painted his gaze.
He also knew about Kunon’s training, about Karin’s lack of combat experience, and that none of them wanted to use magic tools… he knew everything.
And it was all Lise’s fault, though she didn’t have a choice.
Her mission was to confirm how much they knew about magic, what tactics they were preparing, and how dangerous they could be.
At first, Lise should’ve activated her own magic tool, but luckily there were some in the Fairstadt mansion, so she didn’t have to and risk being suspected.
“Why were you honest with them about magic, though?”
“…Sorry, I am not good at lying, so I preferred to speak as little truth as possible.”
“Hah! Your expression never changes, how could they notice a lie? Still, you are praiseworthy for worrying about it.”
She struggled to keep her deadpan expression despite her lying.
The truth was, she didn’t want to lie.
Still, despite her shadiness, Mirta extended her a helping hand, and Takumi never looked displeased at her presence, although she had come out of nowhere.
She didn’t want to lie to people like them, although she had already betrayed them, and wanted to avoid feeling guiltier.
When she felt that her feelings were about to spill out, she clutched her basket with even more strength as if trying to squeeze them with her hands.
But that was the wrong move.
“By the way, what’s in there?”
Kiad gestured at her while gazing at the basket.
“Let me see what’s inside.”
“…Mirta gave me some apple pie, and–”
“You heard me? I told you to let me see what’s inside.”
His merry expression twisted in a moment, and a shade of anger painted his voice.
Timidly, the child handed her present over. He snatched it from her, and then took the wrapped box out of it.
“Ooh… the shape isn’t very good, but it looks like a pie, yeah.”
He then unwrapped it, looked at the insides, and crushed it.
“Mh… I thought they’d hid something here, but I guess they’re not that smart.”
A second later, Kiad threw the bashed box and basket on the ground, then kicked them toward Lise.
Lise couldn’t stop her voice while seeing at the mess her pie was right now – the present that Mirta wanted to give her.
But the man didn’t care, and probably amused by her expression, which she hardly changed, wore an unpleasant grin.
“What, did you like that? Let’s make our cook bake one for you, then.”
“…No, I… can do without it…”
Probably irritated by seeing her put the box back in the basket and embracing it again, the man rose his voice without holding his anger back.
“What the hell is wrong with you? Do you understand your position?!”
“…Yes. I understand it.”
“Then try to tell me.”
He glared down on her with a gaze that would have shattered anyone’s happiness.
“Say it! What the fuck is your position?!”
“…I accepted the protection of Fortesea as their guest.”
“Exactly! Who took care of you after your father died and your mother collapsed due to her illness?!”
“…Lord Kiad Fortesea.”
“Yes, I did! I confirmed your talent as a holy knight, I prepared a proper workspace for you, I discussed with my father, and I made you become the damn archbishop! And who did you ask for help when your mother was bedridden?! You asked us, Fortesea, to help you! Did you forget that?!”
“…No. I would never forget your kindness, Lord Kiad.”
While speaking, she wore a deadpan expression.
She hated herself.
For being afraid of the mighty Fortesea, and for being so pathetic.
During her sixth birthday, Lise was glad to become part of the Fortesea family.
She was a holy knight like her late father, and thanks to the law formula she had invented, she believed she could help her mother getting better. She studied day and night, sometimes even forgetting to sleep.
Thanks to her efforts and resourcefulness, she deepened her knowledge of magic and law formulas very quickly, and in three mere years she became known as a prodigy. Then, Elvis, head of the family of Fortesea, granted her the status of archbishop.
She believed that her creation could help people… but in the next two years, her faith crumbled.
“We’ve arrived? Lise, you did your job. Now go research stuff as usual.”
The carriage stopped as he said those words, and coming back to her senses, the archbishop felt her mood sink.
In the royal castle’s basement were the law formula’s development room and laboratory.
“With your last report, I guess your progress aren’t going very well… but you won’t ease up now, won’t you?”
“…No. What I am currently researching is quite difficult, so I only need more time.”
“Haha, it’s hard even for a prodigy like you? Then feel free to hole yourself up in there until the match’s day. I’ll prepare everything you need.”
She was clearly under a sort of house arrest, and it was impossible for her to escape.
Trying her best not to look at Kiad’s gross smile, Lise got off the carriage.
“Go, now. And don’t forget who let you and your mother live.”
“…Yes. But could I eat something before?”
“Come again? The servants will bring you anything anytime.”
“No… I do not want a meal. I only want to eat this before it gets cold.”
She raised the basket in her hand, and the man grunted annoyed.
“Do what you want. After you eat that shit, go to the laboratory right away.”
After he spat those hideous words, the carriage started to move again along with the neigh of the horses.
Paying no mind to it, she hurried to her room, which was actually a guest room within the royal castle.
Despite her being a child, she was both the archbishop and a guest of Fortesea, so her room was insanely gorgeous and very spacious.
They thought she’d be happy to go to and from the basement if they gave her that room, and that decision was a mere glimpse of the power the Fortesea held as a family.
Lise moved alone in the room and kindly placed the basket on the desk, then opened the crushed box and stared at the bashed pie.
She brought to her mouth a piece which was still warm and felt the sweet flavor of sugar mixing perfectly with the sour fruit.
“This is… not shit.”
Unable to contain the emotion that filled her whisper, tears streamed down her cheeks and fell on the back of her hand.
The more that gentle flavor spread in her mouth, the more her feelings deepened.
“This is… nothing like shit.”
That pie was something made by someone who thought tenderly about her.
The kind, warm taste of that present reminded Lise of her mother’s cuisine when she was still healthy. She despised Kiad for having crushed it and called it shit.
Still, she didn’t have the courage to face him directly.
She hadn’t Takumi’s confidence, who could speak sharply in front of that monster.
The only thing she could do was lock her feelings away and follow Fortesea’s orders.
That was the only sacrifice needed to keep her and her mother alive. Living by giving up her everything and suppressing her heart.
That wasn’t any different from living like… a slave.
She tried to dry her tears until, without noticing, she ended up grasping thin air. Nothing of the pie was left.
“…Next time we meet, I must thank her.”
While softly whispering those words, she wiped her face with her sleeves, then stared at the paper in the bottom of the box.
She wanted to take care of her present to the end, so she carefully took it while feeling the urge to negate Kiad’s words, but…
The paper didn’t seem to budge.
Now that she noticed it, although Kiad crushed the box, that paper sheet kept its original shape perfectly.
Then, she remembered Mirta’s words – not wrinkle the paper when you lift it – and so she did.